The Green Bay Packers have a promising young tandem at inside linebacker with last year’s rookie duo of undrafted Krys Barnes and fifth-round pick Kamal Martin. While they had solid debut seasons, can either become a legit difference-maker? Can either be even on par with Blake Martinez? Regardless of the top of the depth chart, the Packers are a man down after releasing veteran Christian Kirksey.
Notre Dame’s Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah is our No. 2-ranked prospect.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah played rover at Notre Dame. He’s listed as a linebacker ahead of the NFL Draft.
He might as well be a Swiss Army knife with his ability to contribute all over the field.
“The versatility came from him playing multiple positions,” Edward Price, a former South Carolina linebacker who coached Owusu-Koramoah since he was 8, told the Indy Star. “(In high school) he was always the best receiver on the team, he was the best safety on the team and if coach needed him to blitz, he would put him at defensive end or linebacker and the quarterback would never get the ball off.”
At Notre Dame, the rover plays here, there and everywhere. According to Pro Football Focus, that meant 331 snaps as a slot corner, 212 snaps as an in-the-box linebacker and 88 snaps on the defensive line in 2020.
“With me playing a lot of man coverage this year that helped me out I think in my transition to the league as the NFL has become more of a pass-happy league,” Owusu-Koramoah said at Notre Dame’s pro day. “More teams are running 70 percent, 80 percent sub-packages. That kind of duality I think is what NFL teams are looking for as the league progresses to more of a pass league.”
In 2020, he won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. He was called a “freak show” by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney.
“My skill-set to start off is a mindset,” he said. “I think when I step on the field, my attitude kind of differs from others, just willing to attack, willing to be physical, willing to take chances, willing to make plays, a fierce competitor. In terms of the offense and their skills and speed, I think I match up just as well. I run fast, I’m physical and I’m quick reacting but not too quick where I can’t be patient to wait for the play to develop in terms of my eyes.”
Owusu-Koramoah is from Bethel, Va., and went to the same high school as Allen Iverson.
“You just always wanted to excel,” he told PilotOnline.com. “You want to go past the sky, want to go past the stars, you want to go past anything that’s set in your way. And in high school that was always the goal, to find something to separate myself from those that came after me and ultimately to leave the place better than I found it.”
While he’s undersized – barely bigger than a safety – he plays with a physics-defying violence formed as a first-grader. The Oklahoma drill has become taboo but, back then, it was a way to determine who was “man enough” to play a violent sport.
“It just molded me to be kind of like the physical person that I am today,” Owusu-Koramoah told The Athletic. “And not being fearful of anything that bleeds just like me. Not a lot of guys want that physicality. Not a lot of guys want to feel another guy’s pads on him. It’s a personal thing.”
JOK (by initials) or Wu (by nickname) is a different player on the field. He’s different off the field, too.
“I was big into the arts in high school,” Owusu-Koramoah told Irish Sports Daily. “Whether it was photography, music, film, acting, you name it, so I try to keep that up when I can. I’m always the guy with the 70s vibe,” he says with a laugh. “Jazz, R&B, everything from Marvin Gaye to John Coltrane.”
Measureables: 6-foot-1 1/2, 221 pounds. DNP 40, 4.15 shuttle, 36.5 vertical, DNP bench press.
Stats and accolades: A two-year starter, Owusu-Koramoah had 142 tackles, including seven sacks and 24.5 tackles for losses, plus eight passes defensed, six forced fumbles and one interception. In 2020, he won the Butkus Award and was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American after tallying 62 tackles, 11 TFLs and four passes defensed. According to Sports Info Solutions, he missed 12 tackles (17 percent). On the other hand, he yielded only a 50 percent completion rate with 5.2 yards per target against the pass.
NFL Draft Bible says: In his first year as Notre Dame’s starting rover, Owusu-Koramoah added a level of explosiveness that had been absent from the position for the Irish. That level of play took on a whole other level of impact in 2020, becoming one of the most dynamic defenders in the nation. As a former safety, his short-area quickness and overall range were displayed at the position. He plays a lot as an overhang over the No. 2 receiver, flashing big-time potential in run support off the edge. Owusu-Koramoah actually does some nice work in man-to-man coverage, quickly closing to make plays on the football. No matter where the ball is, he always seems to be involved. At 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, he is a tweener who is a bit of an odd fit schematically. Without the power profile to be a fulltime linebacker in the box and coverage variance to be a safety, Owusu-Koramoah is a positionless player who some teams will value more than others. For creative defensive coordinators, he will be a chess piece to use in a variety of ways. For those teams in the market for athletic playmakers on the defensive side, Owusu-Koramoah is just what the doctor ordered.
About This Series
Packer Central is introducing you to the top prospects, both on and off the field, in this year’s NFL Draft. The series is starting with the top five at each position.